Tuesday February 07, 2023

Political fine print

By Editorial Board
December 06, 2022

One after the other, the PTI’s much-celebrated dissolution threats seem to be facing setbacks – the most serious ones coming in the form of the father-son Elahi duo, ‘allied’ with the PTI in Punjab. First came Moonis Elahi. Soon after Imran Khan’s grandiose announcement that the PTI would be quitting all assemblies, Moonis sent on a heartening tweet saying that his father would do as the PTI chair directed him to. That put an end to speculations about CM Pervaiz Elahi having thoughts about dissolving the Punjab Assembly. But the comfort was short-lived. Moonis then came on TV and gave a rather tell-all interview, during the course of which he said that former army chief Gen (r) Qamar Javed Bajwa had advised the PML-Q to stand with the PTI. That seemed to have led to a bit of a shift in tone – also short-lived – with Imran proposing talks with the PDM. The talks offer was not responded to since they came with the condition of early elections. And so it was back to square one.

And now we have Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi in front of the camera, in an interview, also making statements that don’t look too rosy for the PTI – though the Punjab CM is at pains to also ‘clarify’ that he will do whatever the PTI chief wishes. Contrary to all the gotcha talk by the PTI leadership about assemblies being dissolved and the PDM ending up in a fix as a consequence, the Punjab CM seems to be of the opinion that the Punjab Assembly at least will continue in much the same way for the next four months. That takes things right up to March. CM Elahi’s handy reason for the dissolution delay is that the PTI’s chief mobility issues, due to his injuries post the attack on him, may affect strategy consultations. Elahi has also explained that the former army chief did not approach the Elahis to join the PTI but that he himself (Pervaiz Elahi) had gone to the former COAS to ask him what the best way forward was. Not done with all the revelations, the Punjab CM has also found it fit to observe that, while Imran may be an honest person, he has a team that is green in politics and which managed to ruin things in Punjab after just a three-year rule in the province.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Moonis and his father have managed to rain all over Imran and his party’s parade. One wonders whether this was part of the grand strategy – and perhaps political observers are not getting the political nuance here – but for those that see the obvious, things are looking a bit murky for the PTI. Even if the Elahis were to play ball – and there is no saying never in politics – the ECP has already said that dissolution of provincial assemblies does not translate into general elections. The PDM too is holding steady (as can be) at the centre. The PTI is evidently trying to make amends for the past few months of allegations and rhetoric, with its representatives reaching out to US diplomats, and also openly stating that they would want only improved relations with the establishment – military and judicial both. The PTI – much like all other parties before it – may be finding out, much to its chagrin, that alliances made without reading the fine print can lead to complication situations. At the moment, the only way forward seems to be to reach out across the aisle and talk to the country’s political forces. That is also the way that should have been sought from the get-go.